The Struggle of Pessimism

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The Struggle of Pessimism

  Whereas my daughter is a natural optimist, my older son is a pessimist. (Our other son is probably too young for us to determine where he is along that spectrum.) The only way my daughter got her optimism is as a gift of our Lord. But my son? He gets it honest, from my wife and I. And mostly me. The funny thing about pessimists it that we don’t think we are. We may use the euphemism “realist.” Or we may just think we are more positive than we really are. Denying our pessimism is the one thing we are optimist about!   The Positive Side of Pessimism My son and I tend to be negative. When I don’t get a job opportunity that I was expecting, I think the world is coming to an end. When my son gets hurt, he acts like he’s dying. (Disclaimer: I think the same thing when I catch a cold.) But I won’t say that our pessimism is completely negative. (There’s the optimist in me again!) By showing caution and discernment, we are being obedient to God. Christians are commanded to test the teaching we hear, analyzing it with a biblical mindset (I John 4:1). We must “examine everything carefully” (I Thessalonians 5:21-22). And this discernment grows as we continually grow in the Lord and live out our faith (Hebrews 5:14). Yes, we must grow in wisdom and discernment, but not to the extent of pessimism and cynicism. Not only is cynicism dangerous for our brain health, but it is dangerous to our spiritual health.   The Danger of Pessimism There is a big difference between wise discernment and despairing cynicism. We must seek God’s wisdom, and also have faith that He will give it (James 1:5-8). And instead of worrying about all the terrible things that can happen, we are called to have joy, knowing that in prayer we can have peace (Philippians 4:4-7). Commenting on this latter passage, Randy Alcorn writes in 5 Reasons to Rejoice, and Not Worry, “We are to focus our thoughts on the true eternal realities God affirms, that better empower us to rejoice. Remembering God’s presence, praying and feeding our thoughts with good things that honor our King—these will increase our joy while starving our anxiety.” Mark Zuckerberg and company recently proved that our emotions can be manipulated by what we read and see. If anything, that Paul’s point for why you should “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” (verse 8).   Together in This Battle My son and I together must pursue Jesus, and encourage each other in the hope we have in Him. It is all good and well to be discerning, but we must not let our negativity define us. Our identity is in Jesus Christ, who proved that we have a lasting and sure hope. I’m positive of that.  

“In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, so that . . . we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, . . .” Hebrews 6:17-20


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